P&G Missteps in China With ‘Smelly Feet’ Blunder

What Happened: On March 13, P&G China’s WeChat account “P&G Members Center” posted an article titled “Women’s feet are five times more smelly than men’s? If you don’t believe it, then smell yours now!” The post justified the claim that women have five times more sweat glands than men do in their feet, with the purpose of selling Procter & Gamble’s personal care products.

P&G’s advertisement on WeChat contained a handful of false claims about female hygiene. Photo: WeChat

Clearly, it didn’t work and has turned the personal care group from a woman’s best ally into her worst enemy by irking netizens. The hashtag, “#P&Gclaimswomen’sfeetisfivetimesmellierthanmen’s” quickly amassed 25 million views, with China Women’s News, a publication of All-China Women’s Federation, decrying the post. As the issue continued to ferment, P&G China issued an apology on Weibo on Thursday, March 24. Yet, is “sorry” enough to placate the anger of one of the world’s largest female consumer markets?

The Jing Take: As the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity. However, this seems not to be the case for the American corporation, P&G, which owns Olay, SK-II, Tampax, and many more. Many netizens, especially women, are boycotting all products labeled with the P&G trademark, claiming the company is misogynistic. Moreover, they are now looking for domestic substitutes for the group’s products. 

In light of this, P&G China’s misstep seems to have lost the favor of one of its largest consumer markets. Given this, brands under the group’s umbrella will have to stay low-key in the hope of not being identified with it — and gingerly market themselves to win back consumers’ hearts. It can’t be stressed enough how prudent businesses must be in the local market. Given the threat posed by domestic players, any international scandal only increases the interest in homegrown labels.

In the past, people were less aware of the group behind a single brand; however, as a growing number of companies aggregate — or acquire other brands to form a larger corporation — a cautionary note is needed. And today, thanks to their high-profile initiatives and media coverage, they are always in the spotlight. Moreover, if they are drawn into controversy, all the brands they own may be dragged in, or vice versa, one brand may endanger the whole group’s reputation. Following this, it will be significant, and dare I say even tantalizing, to see how the aforementioned P&G brands will navigate through the ensuing PR nightmare. (Source: jingdaily.com)